Thursday, December 29, 2011

Twelve for '12

I like setting goals for genealogy and writing. Below are my 2012 goals, and also the “report card” for how I did with those goals I outlined in my "Eleven for '11" post.

Goals for 2012

1. Continue to diversify my freelance career to achieve a financially successful balance between writing, speaking, and teaching.

2. Publish a new book.

3. Publish Kindle, iPad, and Nook versions of my Baba's Kitchen and Three Slovak Women books.

4. Step out of my comfort zone and branch out into new writing markets (Query at least three non-genealogy publications and get the assignments).

5. Continue my search for information about my grandmother's brother who stayed in Slovakia.

6. Find out more about another ancestor who left Slovakia for Argentina.

7. Finally explore genealogy offerings in Second Life.

8. Develop and present more webinars/virtual lectures.

9. Learn more about Google Plus (G+) and how I can use it for genealogy/writing.

10 Continue purging excess clutter. Move more in the direction of paperless systems; organize my home office!

11. Write more blog posts (both on this blog and The Catholic Gene).

12. Eliminate any negative thoughts, energies, and activities that serve as obstacles or block me from achieving my goals.


My Report Card for Eleven for '11

[As the New Year approaches, I've composed a list of 11 genealogy/writing goals I have for 2011].

1. Follow up on researching my Alzo ancestors using information I obtained from my trip to Slovakia this summer: It seems I never have enough time to research my own family, but I believe I made decent progress on this goal. My great-grandfather was a “bird of passage” who traveled back and forth between America Slovakia to earn money to purchase land. I was able to track down passenger arrival lists to document his comings and goings.

2. Publish revised editions (and electronic versions) of my books, Three Slovak Women and Baba's Kitchen. Published print versions (and ebook version for BK) Next up: Versions for Kindle, Nook, and iPad.

3. Try to find out more about my grandmother's brother who stayed in Slovakia. Still working on this with the help of researcher, Michal Razus, in Slovakia.

4. Publish a new book. Did not meet this goal due to extenuating circumstances. But I did publish second editions of two of my books (see #2 above)

5. Explore genealogy in Second Life. I created an account and poked around a bit; but never had time to explore as I had hoped. Will try in 2012!

6. Book additional speaking engagements--including some remote/virtual lectures. Did this. See Top 10 Genealogy and Writing Moments for 2011.

7. Blog more frequently and try to use Twitter more for genealogical purposes. I didn’t blog as often as I would have liked to (although I did write five posts for The Catholic Gene). I think I used Twitter as much as I had anticipated I would.

8. Continue to expand my freelance writing career. Did this and still working on it!

9. Write for at least 15 minutes per day (about ancestors or topics not associated with assignments or deadline projects). I’m happy to say that I was able to do this most days, with a few exceptions when I was on the road.

10. Finish organizing my father's scrapbook of his basketball days. I accomplished this and am so happy about it!

11. Purge, purge, purge the clutter! Organize all the other! Didn’t do quite enough, but I made an effort.

Copyright, 2011, Lisa A. Alzo

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Top 10 Genealogy and Writing Moments for 2011

Another year is drawing to a close. It's the time for reflection and resolutions. Last year I listed my Top Ten Genealogical Moments for 2010. This year, I am including the standout moments for me in both genealogy and writing.

10. Having articles published in Family Tree Magazine, Family Chronicle Magazine, Internet Genealogy Magazine, and The Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly (and having the cover article in the September 2011 issue), as well as online for the Experts series. Also, being invited to be a contributor for the new blog: The Catholic Gene.

9. Teaching three online courses for Family Tree University and several for the National Institute for Genealogical Studies.

8. Discovering that my grandparents had another baby (Mary) I never knew about. She was their first born child, and died at age 6 months of pneumonia. Nobody in my father's family ever mentioned her. I learned about her from a tiny obituary in an old hometown newspaper and was able to order her death certificate.

7. Appearing as a guest several times on Geneabloggers Radio, and also on the FGS MySociety Radio Show.

6. Being selected as a speaker for the first RootsTech conference, and also for the first time at the Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference, in Springfield, IL.

5. Publishing revised editions of my books, Baba’s Kitchen: Slovak & Rusyn Family Recipes & Traditions, Second Edition (available now at; and Three Slovak Women, Second Edition (in press with CreateSpace).

4. Enjoying visits with fellow genealogists/friends. First, during an extended visit to California: visiting San Francisco, Napa Valley, Oakland, Los Angeles, and Burbank. Then, in October, during a visit to Connecticut to attend a conference hosted by the Polish Genealogical Society of Connecticut and the Northeast.

3. Learning more about the son of an interesting cousin on my Alzo side. It’s one of those “greatness can come even out of tragic circumstances”-type stories. I plan to write an article (and accompanying blog post) about the discovery in the coming months.

2. Branching out to the world of Webinars (seminars given online). I offered several free webinars on my own in March 2011, and also presented Webinars for Legacy Family Tree and the SCGS Jamboree extension series.

It was difficult to come up with a single, outstanding moment for 2011. So, for the top spot I chose a combination of moments:

1. Having the opportunity to visit so many great cities and present at various conferences including: RootsTech, Ontario Genealogical Society (Canada), Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree, Utah Genealogical Association, Federation of Genealogical Societies, Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International, and the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania, as well as numerous groups and societies in Pennsylvania, New York, and other states

Looking back, I’d say 2011 was a pretty good year, and I am looking forward to greater challenges and new opportunities for my genealogical research and writing in 2012.

Copyright, 2011, Lisa A. Alzo

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Veselé Vianoce! Merry Christmas!

Today is Christmas Eve and I will be observing my Slovak and Rusyn heritage with a special Christmas Eve Supper. You can read some of my reflections on this today over at The Catholic Gene.

Sharing this image from a beautiful Slovak postcard I received this year from a friend and colleague:

Veselé Vianoce a Šťastný Nový Rok!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Copyright, 2011, Lisa A. Alzo

Friday, December 09, 2011

Family Recipe Friday: Auntie B's Christmas Cookies

Auntie B’s Christmas (Cut-Out) Cookies

Ever since I was a young girl these cookies have been a “must-bake” at Christmas! The almond extract provides a unique flavor.

1 c. butter
1-½ c. sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. almond extract

4 c. flour
½ tsp. baking soda

Cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in eggs. Add vanilla and almond extracts and mix well.

Mix together flour and baking soda. Add to mixture and mix well.

Let stand in refrigerator for about 30 min. Roll out dough with rolling pin on floured board.

Use cookie cutters to cut out cookies. Bake at 350 °F for 15 minutes. Using parchment paper helps to prevent cookies from sticking to pan (or you can use non-stick cooking spray—lightly coat pans).

Frosting and Decorating

1 egg white
1 c. powdered sugar
Few grains salt

Beat egg white with electric mixer and add 1 tsp. cold water; beat again.

Gradually add powdered sugar to beaten egg white and beat until smooth, with a consistency to pour slightly.

For colored icing, divide into small bowls and add few drops of food coloring of desired color.

You can find this and other recipes in my book, Baba's Kitchen: Slovak & Rusyn Family Recipes & Traditions (2nd, Ed.).

Family Recipe Friday is a blogging series started by Lynn Palermo of The Armchair Genealogist (Thanks, Lynn!).

Thursday, December 01, 2011

New Family Tree University Courses Start Monday 12/5

Family Tree University has 11 courses starting on Monday, December 5th, including two courses I'm teaching: Discovering Your Czech and Slovak Roots, and Immigration Master Class (their spotlight course for this session).

Click here to learn more and register.

This is a great chance to get a jumpstart on your research goals for 2012.

Copyright, 2011, Lisa A. Alzo

Disclosure: I work as a paid instructor for FTU (F&W Media)

Legacy Family Tree Webinar: Tracing Immigrant Ancestors

Come join me for a free Legacy Family Tree Webinar on Wednesday, December 7, 2011 on Tracing Immigrant Ancestors:

2:00 PM Eastern (U.S.)
1:00 PM Central
12:00 PM Mountain
11:00 AM Pacific
7:00 PM GMT

Webinar Description

America is a nation of immigrants, comprised of people who left home to find a better life for themselves and their families. Tracking down your immigrant ancestors can often be a daunting task. This webinar will show you tips and tricks for locating and searching passenger lists and other key immigration documents both on and offline to help you trace your roots.

In order to attend, you must register (advanced registration is highly recommended). Click here to reserve your space now.

Copyright, 2011, Lisa A. Alzo

Disclosure: I have been invited to present this webinar for Legacy Family Tree and will be paid a speaker's fee for my services.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Spend St. Patrick's Weekend in Salt Lake City with the Czechs & Slovaks!

This announcement is provided by the Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International about their upcoming Salt Lake City Symposium, March 16-17, 2012 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Please direct all questions to CGSI.

Salt Lake City Symposium

March 16-17, 2012

Come and join your Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International (CGSI) friends while we research at the Worlds’ largest genealogical library with access to 2.4 million rolls of microfilmed genealogical records; 727,000 microfiche, 356,000 books, serials and other formats; over 4,500 periodicals and 3,725 electronic resources.

Learn all about using the collection and discover new leads to uncovering your genealogical roadblocks. Get help from experts in Eastern European research.

Become acquainted with CGSI officers, directors and other fellow members at our Social mixer on Thursday evening to set the tone for two days of learning. Whether this is your first visit or your fourteenth, this will be a special event with presentations focused on Czech and Slovak research and archival record acquisition made available within a block of the Family History Library.

Please register early as space is limited to the first 150! See you there.

Visit our website at: for further details, lodging and registration form.

~ Paul Makousky, Symposium Chair

Copyright, 2011, Lisa A. Alzo

Disclosure: I currently serve on the Board of Directors for the Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International, and have been invited to present three talks at the March symposium for which I will receive travel reimbursement.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Remembering Dad

In memory of my father, John, on the sixth anniversary of his passing away.

Can't believe it's been that long since I've seen your smile or heard your laugh. I remember that morning when I held your hand as you took your last breath. Saying goodbye to you was one of the most difficult moments I've ever had to experience. I am forever grateful for all you gave me and all you taught me. Rest in peace. Love you.

This is his senior class photograph from Duquesne High School.

John Alzo, Duquesne High School, 1943. Original photo & Digital image. Privately held by Lisa Alzo [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] New York, 2011

Copyright, 2011, Lisa A. Alzo

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Beyond Black Friday: Baba's Kitchen Book on Sale

The insanity of Black Friday has come and gone, but if you're looking for a nice stocking stuffer gift, you can save 25% off my book, Baba's Kitchen: Slovak & Rusyn Family Recipes & Traditions, Second Edition, at

Simply click here to order, and use coupon code: BUYMYBOOK305

Please note that the maximum savings is amount is $50 and the coupon's end date is December 14, 2011.

About the Book:

Baba's Kitchen is a collection of Slovak and Rusyn recipes and traditions passed down through the generations. Also included are some adopted American favorites. This revised edition contains several bonus recipes and traditions. For more information, visit the Babas Kitchen website.

Copyright, 2011, Lisa A. Alzo

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Top Ten

Today is Thanksgiving, and here are ten things I am especially thankful for this year.

1. Good Health. It may sound cliché , but I'm always grateful to receive good news from my routine medical exams and tests.

2. The Best Husband. He puts up with my crazy schedule and supports my goals and dreams.

3. Family: My aunts, uncle and cousins. I love you all.

4. Fabulous Friends. So blessed to have you in my life.

5. A Writer's Life. It's so fulfilling to be able to make a living as a writer.

6. Freedom. Thanks to the men and women who sacrifice so much so that I can enjoy freedom.

7. My Slovak/Rusyn Heritage. Strong people. Big hearts.

8. A Home. It's not the building that counts, but the love contained within its walls.

9. Loving Parents. I miss them both very much but so grateful for the love they gave me and for how they raised me.

10. Determined Grandparents. For having the courage to get on the boats. I owe all the benefits I enjoy today to their decisions.

Wherever you are, enjoy your day and I hope you can take a few moments to list those things you are grateful for this year.

Copyright, 2011, Lisa A. Alzo

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Meet Me in St. Louis: At the CGSI Conference

The Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International is holding its 13th Genealogical/Cultural Conference this week October 26-29, 2011 (Wednesday – Saturday) at the Sheraton Westport Chalet Hotel, St. Louis, MO.

Although the early bird registration discount is no longer available, you can still attend. Click here for the conference schedule and other information.

I will be giving three presentations at this conference. If you have Czech or Slovak Roots, St. Louis is the place to be! Hope to meet you there!

Copyright, 2011, Lisa. A. Alzo

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

My First Post on The Catholic Gene

I've published my first post on the cooperative blog, The Catholic Gene, entitled "My Auntie: Christ's Career Woman and Our Family Historian" about my aunt, Sister Mary Camilla Alzo.

Click here to read it.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Second Edition of Baba's Kitchen Now Available

I'm happy to announce the release of the revised, second edition of my popular Baba's Kitchen cookbook.

Baba's Kitchen: Slovak & Rusyn Family Recipes and Traditions, Second Edition (144 pages) is currently available for purchase exclusively at both in print format and digital download version. (The first edition is now out of print).

In addition to all of the favorites from the first edition, the book contains bonus recipes and more Slovak & Rusyn traditions.

Want to save 15%? Simply purchase the book from between now and the end of the day tomorrow, September 23rd. Click here, and at checkout, enter the coupon code: OKTOBERFEST305

I hope you will enjoy this new version!

Monday, September 05, 2011

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

When I was in grade school, one of the first assignments we had in English class after our long three-month break was to write an essay “What I Did on My Summer Vacation.”

Since Labor Day marks the “unofficial” end of summer and students of all ages get into “back to school” mode, I thought it would be fun to write my grown-up essay about how I spent my summer vacation.

Conferences, Conferences, Conferences!

I had the pleasure of being an invited speaker for three excellent conferences. Two actually took place technically in the spring, but I’m including them anyway: The Ontario Genealogical Society May 13-15, 2011 in Hamilton, and the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree in Burbank, CA June 8-10. In August (19-20) I spoke at the Utah Genealogical Association's summer conference, and that same weekend I also participated (via pre-recorded video) in Family Tree Univeristy’s first virtual conference. In a few days, I will be giving three talks at the Federation of Genealogical Societies 2011 Conference in Springfield, IL.

I also presented two webinars: One for the SCGS Extension webinar series and another for Legacy Family Tree.

Hangin’ with Genea-Peeps

Part of the fun of genealogy conferences is getting to spend time with friends/colleagues. As a bonus, before the SCGS Jamboree, I was able to spend time with fellow genealogists/bloggers Donna Pointkouski (What’s Past is Prologue), Steve Danko (Steve’s Genealogy Blog), and Kathryn Doyle (

[Also, how could I forget??? (thanks Sheri!) the fabulous day trip to Los Angeles and Rodeo Drive with Donna, Denise Levenick (The Family Curator), and Sheri Fenley (The Educated Genealogist). In our travels we came across the now infamous "Peter the Parrot." Later that night we met up with the one and only footnoteMaven for dinner and got to meet Mr. Family Curator too!

I also spent many Friday nights chatting with fellow genealogists while listening to the many excellent guests on Geneabloggers Radio.

Family Reunion

In July I attended my family’s 44th annual reunion (mom’s side). I wrote about it in the post: Ten Things I Learned at Our Family Reunion.

Living the Writing Life

It has been an unusually busy summer for me writing-wise (which is why I haven’t been posting much here). I was blessed with an abundance of freelance writing assignments for magazines and online content sites. In addition, I’ve been working on developing new courses for both the National Institute for Genealogical Studies, and Family Tree University. I have also revised my popular recipe book: Baba’s Kitchen: Slovak and Rusyn Family Recipes and Traditions (stay tuned to this Blog for a post soon about the revised edition and how to purchase it), and have been fervently working on a new book (can’t reveal the details yet but it’s nonfiction and a fascinating story).

Chasing Elusive Ancestors

I haven’t had much time to work on my own genealogy but I did manage to squeeze a few hours in here and there searching online databases and viewing microfilm at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Most of this work has been on my paternal side of the family, but I’ve also made an interesting new connection regarding one of my maternal lines (hope to blog more about this in the near future).

So Long Summer!

I can’t believe that the summer is over, but I had some wonderful personal and professional experiences, and I’m looking forward to a productive fall with plenty more writing projects, a number of speaking engagements, and several classes both in the classroom and online.

Hope to see many of you at some of my upcoming scheduled events!

Saturday, September 03, 2011

I've Got a Confession to Make...

I've got a confession to make....

No, I didn't do something awful. Actually, quite the opposite. I've done something I feel really good about. I signed up to be a contributor to a new Blog: The Catholic Gene, a Blog "dedicated to the faith of our fathers and mothers…and their ancestors. This Blog was launched by my friend and fellow genealogist, Donna Pointkouski, who also writes another Blog, "What's Past Is Prologue," and will feature articles by a diverse group of authors who share a strong Catholic identity and a love for genealogy.

Besides Donna, and yours truly, you'll find several other noted genealogists and bloggers among the regular contributors including:

Cecile Marie Agata Wendt Jensen (Ceil) of Michigan Polonia and the Polonica Americana Research Institute (PARI).; Jasia from the Creative Gene; Steve Danko from Steve's Genealogy Blog; Lisa/Smallest Leaf from 100 Years in America; Sheri Fenley from The Educated Genealogist; Craign Manson from Geneablogie; and Denise Levenick from The Family Curator. and from time to time even a post from the famous footnoteMaven.

I'm honored to be in their company and look forward to writing my memories about growing up Roman Catholic and my time at Catholic school.

Drop by and check out TCG. You'll read a great collection of posts and even get to see pics of the contributors in their first communion or wedding attire!

P.S. Sorry for the confession pun...I just couldn't resist!

Copyright, 2011, Lisa A. Alzo

All Rights Reserved

Friday, August 19, 2011

Two Genealogy Events at One Time?

This weekend it seems I will be in teaching genealogy in two places at one time. Magic trick? Optical illusion? No. And, as much as I sometimes wish for it to happen, I've not been cloned either. I will be appearing in person today and tomorrow at the Utah Genealogical Association's Summer Conference in Sandy, UT. Click here for more information. I will be giving four talks and the banquet talk tonight, "100 Years of Gratitude: A Granddaughter's Genealogical Journey." And, thanks to technology and the internet I will also be participating in Family Tree University's Virtual Conference this weekend. If you're registered, you can watch my videos on Using Naturalization Records and Finding Your East European Ancestor's Village.

If you're in Utah, hope I get to meet you. And, if you are participating in the FTU virtual conference, I'll catch you in cyberspace!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Ten Things I Learned at Our Family Reunion-2011 Edition

On July 9, 2011 my mother’s family held it’s 44th annual reunion at South Park near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We hold these gatherings under the acronym ALAFFFA (this stands for Abbott, Lizanov, Alzo, Figlar, Figlar, Figlar, Augenstein). Each year we have a different theme for our reunion. This year’s theme was Mardis Gras.

Here are ten things I learned at my 2011 Family Reunion:

1. It takes teamwork and good advanced planning to make sure everything goes smoothly on the day, and yet the day comes and goes so quickly—I never get enough time to visit with all of my aunts, uncles, or cousins.

2. It’s amazing we’ve having this reunion faithfully for 44 years and that my generation is now in charge.

3. For those no longer with us: Grandma and Grandpap, Doug, Uncle John, Aunt Ann, Uncle Johnny, Aunt Toni, Uncle Joe. We miss you all very much. We know you are with us in spirit.

4. If anything goes wrong, it’s always “Eddie’s fault—Eddie!!!” (just teasing cousin, Ed).

5. You can plan organized activities and games, or have the latest toys or gadgets, but the kids seem to have the best time with good old fashioned fun: the sliding board and climbing apparatus, and anything that involves water (water balloons, squirt guns, etc.)

6. There has never been an event in my family where we ran out of food. We always have way too much (and plenty of leftovers)!

7. Even your closest relative will fight you for the last few homemade Lady Locks (small, cream filled puff pastries that melt in your mouth). My mother used to be the chief baker of these delights, but she passed the torch on to my Aunt Margie who makes them now that Mom has passed away.

8. There will always be a need to “Go for Ice” (inside joke in our family).

9. It’s not a real party unless “Aunt Fun” is there! And Uncle Mike always has the most creative t-shirt reflecting the theme.

10. My grandparents always stressed the importance of family and of being together. Yes, life moves on and the reunions evolve but one thing remains constant: We honor their memory by making the effort to gather each year.

Next year is our 45th reunion and we've already started making plans for a special reunion weekend celebration.

Photos by Lisa A. Alzo

Copyright, 2011, Lisa A. Alzo

All Rights Reserved


Saturday, July 02, 2011

Legacy Family Tree Webinar: Ready, Set, Write...Now Online

In case you missed my recent Webinar, "Ready, Set, Write: Share Your Family's Story" with Legacy Family Tree, you can now catch the free recording online until July 11, 2011.

A few of the comments from listeners:

Lisa has inspired me to start writing THIS AFTERNOON. I have thought for years about how to organize and start our family history--now I have good suggestions on how to organize it that will fit my style.

I especially liked the suggestion of writing individual character sketches and am anxious to get started with her new ideas.

I have attended a number of similar lectures but none have "fired up" my desire to get writing like this one by Lisa Alzo. Kudos.

Click here to listen and for more information.

Thanks to Geoff Rasmussen and the folks at Legacy. I really enjoyed presenting this topic.

[Disclosure: I was hired as an independent contractor by Legacy Family Tree and paid a speaker's fee to deliver this Webinar]

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

It's Been a Fun Five Years for The Accidental Genealogist

Today I've reached a milestone for this Blog. I have enjoyed sharing my thoughts about my two favorite subjects--writing and genealogy--for five years. Due to other commitments I don't get to post as often as I would like, and I tend to be a bit more selective about the topics I do choose to write about. Here are my five favorite personal highlights from the past five years:

Sojourn in Slovakia - my series of posts about my trip back to my ancestral homeland in June 2010.

Fearless Females - the series of writing prompts I started in 2010 to celebrate Women's History Month and encourage other genealogists to tell their female ancestors' stories.

Top 10 in 10 - My Top 10 Genealogical Moments for 2010 (I also did a list for 2009)

Ten Things I Learned From My Father - Posted for Father's Day 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Posts from 2009 and 2010 for blogging prompts created by my good friend and colleague, Thomas MacEntee over at Geneabloggers.

When I first created this Blog in 2006, I wasn't sure what I would write about or how to do it, and I questioned whether my title of "The Accidental Genealogist" would be a good one, but it seems like it was because since that time I have seen it turn up in other contexts, including when in 2009 I learned that another blog with the same title appeared on another blogging platform long after mine was started. Thankfully, it was a new blogger who understood and found another title.

It's been a fun five years and I would like to extend my appreciation to everyone who reads/follows this blog and those who have commented on my posts. I look forward to sharing more about my ancestors and about genealogy and writing.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ready, Set, Write! Share Your Family's Story: Free Webinar

You've gathered the facts, interviewed your relatives and entered the names, dates, and places into your genealogy software program. Now what?

Family history is so much more than just a collection of facts or charts. Join me for a free Webinar on Wednesday, June 29, 2011 (2:00 PM Eastern U.S.; 1:00 PM Central; 12:00 PM Mountain; 11:00 AM Pacific; 6:00 PM GMT) hosted by Legacy Family Tree.

Learn key techniques and tools for documenting your ancestors' lives, or your own life story, how to overcome writer's block, and methods for creating a compelling family history narrative in simple, manageable steps.

Click here to reserve your space.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Ten Things I Learned From My Father

This Father's Day, in memory of my father, John Alzo, I reflect on ten things I learned from him.

Lisa Alzo dancing with her father John in 1983

Ten Things I Learned from My Father

1. Stay loyal to your family. My father was the youngest of four. He had three older sisters (Ann, Betty, and Helen) who looked after him when he was a boy. But later in life, Dad would be there for his sisters to look after them during their respective illnesses. Certainly family has issues or problems, but my father always tried to stay "neutral"--he never wanted to be estranged from his sisters or be on bad terms with them. Dad appreciated and respected them.

2. Don't be afraid of hard work. My father was a carpenter. He worked for the Union Railroad. When Dad retired in 1983, his boss gave him a handwritten letter that said: "I had to write you a note because I know of no way to let you know how much I think of you as a man, and a craftsman. This country was built by men like you who took pride in their work. I don't know where we will find the men to replace them and you." In addition to his job on the railroad, Dad performed his own version of "Extreme Makeovers" on a number of houses throughout his hometown of Duquesne, Pennsylvania and its surrounding areas. His talents were reflected in the countless roofs, paneling jobs, cabinets, decks, and more. Dad's job on the railroad was not glamorous, but he took great pride in his work. Learning from Dad, I take pride in my own work--no matter the job.

3. Smile! My father had the most beautiful smiles and. He was generally a happy guy who loved to laugh and joke. Even in his times of suffering, he found a way to say something cute or funny to his doctors, nurses, and others around him and would give them that smile.

4. Actions Speak Louder Than Words. Dad wasn't much for outwardly expressing his feelings by saying "I love you," all the time, or by hugging and kissing. But it was by his actions that I knew he loved me. He was always there when I needed him. He was the guy you could always count on. I felt safe with Dad. Once in awhile, his softer side would show through his tough exterior, and he would wrap his strong arms around me and give me a hug. And, he would always tuck me in at night and give me a goodnight kiss when I was a little girl. He'd say, "Goodnight, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are." this was the signature sign off of comedian Jimmy Durante.

5. Be a Team Player. My father was a star basketball player in his day--throughout high school, and playing on several semi-professional teams until his late 40s.Whether it was on the basketball court, or in the game of life, Dad was always first and foremost a team player. Today, the idea of working for the good of the team often gets lost in the "me" generation and the "I want it now" society. Dad worked well with others. Perhaps it was partly because of his easygoing nature, or that he could adapt to any situations. He was actually the most unselfish person I have ever known. While others on his basketball teams may have wanted to hog the ball to take top scoring honors, Dad focused on making sure the team won. He was generous with his time and money and would help anyone in need without an ulterior motive or desire for anything in return. Dad was a true gentleman on and off the court.

6. It's Not Presents or Material Things that Matter. My father was not a materialistic person, and was generally unaffected by the idea of holidays. Although he would make sure we had them, he never understood the obsession with presents, gifts, cards, etc. and always told us not to "waste our money" by buying such things for him. What he enjoyed most is just having me and those he loved around him.

7. Be a Good Friend. My father was a loyal and true friend. There were very few people in Duquesne that dad did not know either through basketball, the Slovak Club, the Union Grill, or the Railroad. Dad had such a warm personality that people were attracted to him instantly. But, his circle of core friends did not change very much over the years. Many of these friends were his former basketball teammates. You don't find friendships like that anymore. It is a rare thing today to have the same friends in your 70s that you did in your teens and twenties. Dad was a lucky guy; he was a good friend and had good friends in return.

8. Look After Your Neighbors. My father was the "go-to" guy on our street. Whenever the next door neighbor needed a ride to the beauty parlor, the doctor's office, or the grocery store, or church, my father would gladly volunteer. WIth his carpentry skills he also fixed many a roof, put in paneling, or did other odd jobs for anyone who asked--many times he would not accept any payment.

9. Give From the Heart. My father cared about his family and always tried to do right by others. He gave of himself without expectation of anything in return. Next to his big blue eyes, and beautiful smile, Dad's generous heart was one of his most distinctive features. After Dad passed away, one of my cousins wrote to me: "If all the people in the world could have someone like him in their lives the world would be a much better place and there would be peace through out."

10. Shoot Your Best Shot! Dad used basketball as a metaphor throughout his life. He met the challenges of life like he would a tough opponent on the court; with one simple phrase in mind: “When the chips are down, shoot your best shot.” As I face challenges in my own life, I try to think how my father would tackle a problem or address a situation and try to keep this phrase in mind.

So, on this Father's Day I say "Thanks, Dad" for all you've taught me. I miss you more than you know!